(Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Keith Allison)
Since 2000, only three teams have made four consecutive College World Series appearances. However, of those teams, only Stanford’s run reached five straight seasons. Their run began in 1999 and lasted through 2003 under head coach Mark Marquess. Stanford was so dominant they reached the College World Series in seven out of nine years – also making it in 1995 and 1997. As great of a team as Stanford was during this time, they never were able to win a National Championship, even though they made it to three national finals in those five years.
In 1999, Stanford was given a #1 seed and hosted the Palo Alto Super Regional. They breezed through both the regional and super regional rounds of the tournament, going 5-0 in the first two rounds of the tournament. Once in Omaha, Stanford faced perennial powerhouse Cal State Fullerton in the first round. Stanford had no problem disposing of them as they won handily 9-2. Next up was Florida State, who Stanford took care of, winning 10-6 against the Seminoles. In the elimination round, Florida State defeated Cal State Fullerton, sending them to the semifinals against Stanford. It was here where Stanford’s season would come to a conclusion. Stanford would go on to lose two straight to Florida State, the eventual CWS runner up. Stanford’s John Gall would eventually be named to the All-Tournament Team that year after hitting .611 in the NCAAs.
In 2000, the Cardinal defeated Fresno State and Alabama to reach the regional finals where they faced Alabama in a rematch. The Cardinal and the Crimson Tide split allowing Stanford to advance, since they had previously beaten Alabama in the second round. Stanford faced Nebraska in the Super Regionals, who forced an elimination game for Stanford. The Cardinal won the third game 5-3, sending them to their second straight College World Series. In Stanford’s first three games in Omaha, they won twice against Louisiana Lafayette and once against Clemson, averaging almost 12 runs per game. In the finals, Stanford faced off against LSU, who made an incredible come from behind win to stun the Cardinal 6-5. Stanford was just six outs away from a national title when Blair Barbier and Jeremy Witten hit home runs off a dominant Justin Wayne. Wayne, a first team All-American in multiple publications, had struck out seven in three innings of relief up to that point. Although Stanford couldn’t pull off their third national title, they still had two All-Tournament Team performers.
The 2001 Cardinal team fared similarly to that of the 2000 team. Once making it into Omaha, Stanford defeated Tulane and Cal State Fullerton twice en route to a second straight national championship appearance where they faced off against Miami. However, unlike in 2000, Miami annihilated Stanford in an overwhelming 12-1 victory. This left All-College World Series players Ryan Garko, and Sam Fuld feeling dissatisfied with the way the season ended and ready for the next season.
The next year, Stanford once again returned to Omaha after sweeping their way through the regional and super regionals, just as they had done in 1999. In the College World Series, Stanford defeated Notre Dame, but lost to Texas in the second round. In the elimination game, the Cardinal beat Notre Dame 5-3 and would wind up losing to Texas, the eventual NCAA champions in the semifinals. Sam Fuld would eventually be named to the All-College World Series team and Jeremy Guthrie would be named as a Golden Spikes Award finalist.
Finally, in 2003, Stanford made their fifth consecutive appearance in Omaha. Once again, they continued their trend of sweeping the regional and super regional and averaged 10 runs per game and outscoring teams by almost seven runs along the way. In Omaha, Stanford began their quest for a title by shutting out South Carolina. However, in the second round, they lost to Cal State Fullerton, sending the Cardinal to the elimination game. After eliminating South Carolina, Stanford had a rematch against Fullerton, where they won the first game 5-3. In the rubber match, Stanford defeated Fullerton 7-5, sending the Cardinal to their third national final in five years, this time facing off against Rice. Rice had a stellar pitching staff, which included David Aardsma and Philip Humber. The national championship had its format changed in the 2003 season, going from a winner take all to a best of three series. Rice took the first game 4-3, winning in 10 innings. However, Stanford would go on to win the next game 8-3. In the final game of the national championship, Rice would blow out Stanford 14-2, capturing their first national championship in any sport. The Cardinal would end up with five players on the All-Tournament Team – John Hudgins, Ryan Garko, Johnny Ash, Danny Putnam, and Carlos Quentin.
During Stanford’s unprecedented run, they would end up with 16 players that would reach the MLB level. This would include Carlos Quentin, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jed Lowrie among others. Quentin, a first-round pick and eventual two-time All-Star, hit 154 home runs during his nine years in the majors. He had an .831 OPS and would go on to accumulate 10.4 bWAR, including 5.3 in 2008.
Jeremy Guthrie played 13 years in the MLB for five teams, most notably for his five seasons with the Orioles, where he had a 4.12 ERA and a 2.14 K/BB ratio. He also had a 16.4 bWAR in Baltimore, significantly more than anywhere else in his career. His next highest was in Kansas City, where he played to a 2.5 bWAR over four seasons. While playing, Guthrie was known for throwing a low 90s fastball, a cutter, a changeup, and a low to mid 70s knuckle curve. Guthrie retired from the MLB in July 2017.
Lowrie, who was picked in the first round in 2005 by the Red Sox, is currently with the Athletics, slated to be the A’s opening day second baseman. Besides the A’s and Red Sox, Lowrie has made a couple stints with the Astros. Lowrie, a poor fielder, has actually cost his teams 45 runs according to Baseball Info Solutions’ DRS metric. Even so, Lowrie has amassed a 12.4 bWAR during his time in the majors, including his personal best 2017 season where he accrued a 4.0 bWAR.
The coaching staff during the 1999-2003 era also made an impact in other places other than Stanford. Mark Marquess, whose official title as head coach was the “Clark and Elizabeth Nelson Director of Baseball,” retired after the 2017 season. Marquess is now the sixth all-time winningest coach in college baseball history. He retired with a career record of 1,627–878–7, good for a career winning percentage of .650.
Dean Stotz, Marquess’ longtime associate head coach, retired after the 2013 season. He was the top assistant for 37 years. Tom Kunis became a pitching coach at San Jose State. After leaving the program in 2011, he rejoined in 2014 for one year. Kunis then left again to take a job with the Dodgers as an area scout, where he would supervise the Northern California and Northern Nevada territories. Mark O’Brien would take a position with Santa Clara’s team for 10 years as an assistant coach. O’Brien would then leave Santa Clara to accept a position with Creative Artist Agency (CAA) and become an MLBPA Certified Agent.
Finally, Dave Nakama left Stanford after the 2009 season to become an assistant coach at Washington. In 2013, he was named the head coach at San Jose State, where he would go on to hire Tom Kunis. However, his contract was not renewed after the 2016 season because of poor performance. Nakama would go on to coach Treasure Valley Community College in Oregon in 2017. After the season ended, Nakama was re-hired by Washington, albeit as a volunteer assistant coach this time to begin the 2018 season.
Stanford’s run is one of the greatest in recent memory. Over the 1999-2003 seasons, they went 249-84 with an absurd .748 winning percentage. The Cardinal reached three national championships in that span. Because of their immeasurable success, Stanford produced numerous draftees and opportunities for assistant coaches. They were oozing with so much talent from their roster that one of their student managers, Cameron Matthews, would end up playing eight games in future seasons.
Only six other teams have reached the College World Series in at least five consecutive years – the most being Oklahoma State’s seven. However, none have done it as recently as Stanford. Even though the Cardinal never won it all, the sheer amount of wins that they had and the ability to cruise through the NCAAs provides an example of how dominant they were during these years.